By Lionel Saungweme
Guards at Bulawayo’s Mlondolozi Female Prison on Saturday barred MDC Alliance (MDC-A) National Chairperson Thabitha Khumalo, from visiting activists arrested last month after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) ordered a national shutdown.
The captives, comprising three women and a man, were arrested after the ZCTU stayaway of 14 January 2019 and have been held in custody since then. Like many other MDC-A members across the country, the accused were charged with fomenting public violence.
Prison guards gave no reasons for denying Khumalo access to the male and female prisons except to say that “your visit is political.”
After Khumalo’s arrival, the warden called the Officer-in-Charge who in turn phoned the overall chief at Khami Prison.
“We were denied access to three female comrades namely Angeline Mwemba, Mwale Chifufu and Duduzile Amisi. We also did not see our male comrade Thabisani Ngwenya who is popularly known as Ngwesto. We were advised to lodge an application with the provincial offices at Mhlahlandlela Building in Bulawayo,” said the outspoken MP.
Initially four male cadres, Fortune Masuku, Melusi Moyo, Thabisani Ngwenya and Josphat Ngulube were locked up at the all male Khami Remand Prison while Esther Mbewe, Angeline Mwemba, Mwale Chifufu and Duduzile Amisi were detained at Mlondolozi Female Prison.
Esther Mbewe, Fortune Masuku, Melusi Moyo and Josphat Ngulube were granted bail of a $100 each on 8 February 2019 leaving three women namely Angeline Mwemba, Mwale Chifufu, Duduzile Amisi and one man Thabisani Ngwenya to fight for bail.
To add salt to injury, Khumalo was ordered to go back with the food and groceries she had brought for her comrades.
“We were not allowed to leave behind food and groceries bought for our comrades,” said Khumalo.
In Bulawayo, authorities have so far invoked the ban on visitations twice. Firstly, after the 14 January 2019 ZCTU national shutdown, inmates were barred from seeing their relatives and friends for over a week.
The ban was only lifted after sustained pressure from the prisoners’ families. Secondly, a delegation led by Khumalo was barred from seeing prisoners on 16 February 2019.
“Because of this ban we don’t know if any of our incarcerated comrades are in need of bail money,” said Khumalo.
The situation is however different in Manicaland Province. Chikanga Dangamvura MP Prosper Mutseyami, Cllr Dan Saunyama, Tapiwa Manyarara and two other MDCA leaders visited 11 detainees at Mutare Remand Prison. They gave the prisoners food and groceries.
“All the incarcerated are from Chikanga Dangamvura Wards 6, 8, 9 and 15. Let us pray for the (court) appeal to sail through smoothly,” said Mutseyami. Nehanda Radio